21 May 2024 15:45 - 17:00
Max Planck Institute
Auditorium 163
MPI colloquium 21 May 2024 - Neil Cohn
Associate Prof.Dr. Neil Cohn,
Tilburg University




Reimagining language in multimodal paradigm




The last decades have seen a growing recognition of the importance of multimodality on the understanding of language. Yet, the full implications of multimodality have been stymied by pervading notions of language as an amodal and arbitrary system with a primary modality of speech – ideas which have persisted for over a century. I will argue that this conception of language  cannot account for many of the basic observations revealed in the past decades of language research. I will present a multimodal model of language that accounts for all unimodal behaviors across the vocal, bodily, and graphic modalities along with their multimodal combinations. This “grand unified” model directly allows for semiotic promiscuity across iconicity, indexicality, and symbolicity, while warranting new understandings of linguistic innateness, relativity, universals, and evolution. Altogether, this approach heralds a shift to a Multimodal Paradigm of the language sciences, re-imagining both its cognitive faculty and the notion of “language” itself.

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